In the months since [artist id="1102"]Michael Jackson's[/artist] death, most everyone connected to the King of Pop — as well as those that never met him but loved his music or hated who they thought he'd become — have had the chance to air their views about his life. On Tuesday, MJ himself will get a chance to weigh in as his ghostwritten memoir, "Moonwalk," is reissued.
One of his original editors, Shaye Areheart, told MTV News that the Michael Jackson found within the book's pages is not the one we've come to hear so much about in the years after the molestation accusations and the months since his death from an overdose of surgical anesthetic in June.
"I didn't believe those stories," she said. "I thought it was untrue. I think you don't change that much. I knew Michael pretty well for those years. He was a fundamentally gentle, kind, decent person who revered children, who felt that children were angels on Earth. That's not the sort of person that would take advantage of a child. I never did believe those stories."
During the four-year production process on "Moonwalk," Areheart would sit with Jackson in his Encino, California, home, asking the singer questions and recording his answers about his childhood and family, his early Motown experiences, the isolating effects of superstardom and the bizarre rumors that often enveloped him.
As the book neared completion in November 1987, Jackson was in Australia for the international leg of his Bad tour. Areheart traveled to Melbourne, and for the next two weeks, they sat in hotel rooms as she read aloud the story of his life.
"He loved to be read to," she said, adding that the idea of reading through the manuscript seemed like "the most boring idea he'd heard in his life."
But weeks before the book was to be published, MJ hesitated, worried about all that he'd revealed, fearful that his effort to tell the truth about his life would only feed the tabloid fire.
"He really wanted to do this book," Areheart explained. "He wanted to set the record straight. He felt like there had been so many falsehoods. And then all of sudden, he felt like somebody who'd just been exposed and thought, 'Maybe I don't want to publish this book.' "
MJ eventually decided, though, that publication should move forward. "Moonwalk" hit bookshelves in 1988 and shot to the top of the New York Times best-seller list. The reissued version carries a new introduction from Motown head honcho Berry Gordy, as well as an in-depth afterword by Areheart. The pages are filled with color photos that Jackson himself selected, including behind-the-scenes looks at video shoots, old family photos and one of him in a red-and-gold kimono with a huge smile on his face.
Areheart found out about Jackson's death while she was at a book party. She'd spent time with MJ in the years since the publication of "Moonwalk," collaborating on a collection of poetry, short stories and paintings and making plans for future books. As news trickled out about the sordid details leading up to his death, Areheart said she was in shock.
"When I knew Michael, he didn't even drink," she said. "The guy did nothing. He was healthy and very proud of his health. He was a vegetarian. He was constantly exercising and dancing and moving. So I just" — she paused — "I just can't speak to that."